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The Administrative Court (Davis LJ and Warby J) on 29 November 2019 handed down full reasons for its decision, communicated on 18 November 2019, to refuse the application for permission to apply for judicial review brought by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP against ITV.

The claim related to the decision taken by ITV to host a leaders’ debate on 19 November 2019 between the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties. 

The Court’s judgment contains a detailed analysis of the reasons why a commercial broadcaster, such as ITV, is not amenable to judicial review. The Court found that ITV was not discharging any public function when deciding, in the exercise of its independent editorial judgment, on the format of programmes over the General Election period. The fact that ITV had a series of regulatory obligations imposed on it by a statutory scheme did not render it amenable to judicial review. An alternative remedy was also available to the parties in the form of a complaint to Ofcom. The Court went on to conclude, albeit obiter, that there was no arguable case that ITV’s decision had breached the principle of due impartiality found in Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. Nor was there any other arguable basis on which to find ITV’s decision was flawed on public law grounds. The Court refused SNP’s application for permission to appeal. 

Kieron Beal QC was instructed by Hogan Lovells International LLP for ITV Broadcasting Ltd.  

A full copy of the Court’s judgment is available here.